Legacies of the Great War

One of the responsibilities of History Department is to share their research and the research of others with our students and the larger Marquette and Milwaukee communities. In this post, Julius Ruff introduces a major lecture series for Fall 2014 (sponsored by the department, with major help from other academic units) that will commemorate the centenary of the First World War. All are welcome to attend! Jim Marten, Editor

Legacies of the Great War

WWI Poster

Find out more about the series at our website.

The year 2014 marks the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, a conflict known as “the Great War” to those who fought in it. In many ways the latter appellation is a more apt characterization of the war which the historian of Germany, Fritz Stern, called “the first calamity of the twentieth century, the calamity from which all the other calamities sprang.” The war decimated a generation of young men, but it also carried away the established social and political order of 1914 and, in its imperfect peace settlement, paved the way for a Communist revolution in Russia, the rise of fascist dictatorships in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, a second world war, and ultimately a Cold War which, recent events in Ukraine suggest, did not end completely with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Beyond Europe, the Middle East continues to be shaken by conflicts whose roots we may trace to the actions of European statesmen during and after the First World War and in Africa and Asia the war in many ways paved the way for the eventual end of western imperial control.

The History Department, with assistance from the Law School, the Gender and Sexuality Resources Center, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, is observing the war’s centennial with a symposium, “Legacies of Great War,” that will bring several key scholars to campus to reflect on the war. Each visiting scholar will deliver a major address and participate in a panel discussion with scholars from Marquette and the Milwaukee area.

The symposium opens on September 8, 2014, at 4:00-5:30 PM in Raynor Library’s Beaumier Suite BC, with Professor Julius Ruff of Marquette delivering a lecture on “The Enduring Legacy of the Great War,” which will provide an overview of the war’s consequences.

Professor Leonard V. Smith, the Frederick B. Artz Professor of History at Oberlin College, will deliver the second major program in the symposium as the History Department’s Rev. Henry Casper, S.J., Lecturer. He is the author of Between Mutiny and Obedience: The Case of the Fifth French Infantry Division during World War I (1994), The Embattled Self: French Soldiers’ Testimony of the Great War (2007), and the forthcoming Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919: The “Laboratory over a Vast Cemetery.” He is also the co-author of France and the Great War, 1914-1918. Professor Smith will speak at 4:00-5:30 PM on September 15, in AMU 227 on “The War after the War: Drawing Boundaries at the Paris Peace Conference,” in which he will look particularly at the issues raised in drawing the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine. On September 16, Professor Smith will join our own Timothy McMahon and Philip Naylor, as well as Richard Friman from Political Science in a panel discussion of the war’s geo-political effects. Held from 9:30-10:45 in AMU 227, the panel will constitute both a meeting of Julius Ruff’s World War I course but also an opportunity for members of the University community to join in discussion of the war’s consequences.

Professor Irene Guenther of the University of Houston will be our third speaker. An historian of Germany, Dr. Guenther is the author of Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich (2004) and is co-curator of a major art exhibition on the war, “Postcards from the Trenches,” which opened on August 19 in Washington at the Pepco Edison Gallery. She will speak on Oct. 1, at 4:00-5:30 PM, in Raynor Library Beaumier BC Suite on “The Great War in Art.” She will join Marquette’s Sarah Gendron (Foreign Languages), Leah Flack (English), and Peter Staudenmaier (History) in a panel discussion on Oct. 2 at 9:30-10:45 in Beaumier A on “The Cultural Impact of the Great War.” The panel will again be a part of the World War I class, but members of the University community are invited to attend.

Our final speaker will be Professor Martha Hanna of the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is the author of The Mobilization of Intellect: French Scholars and Writers during the Great War (1996) and the winner of the J. Russell Major Prize of the American Historical Association, Your Death Would be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War (2006). She will present a lecture entitled “Their Hearts Remained at Home: Marriage and the Great War in Britain, France, and Canada” at 4:00-5:30 PM on Oct. 22 in Eckstein Hall. On Oct. 23, Dr. Hanna will join with Kristen Foster and Carla Hay for a panel discussion of “Gender and the Great War” at 9:30-10:45 AM in AMU 157. Members of the University community are invited to join the World War I class.

The final event in our symposium will be a panel discussion on the subject of ”Veterans of the Great War in Historic Context” bringing together John Boly (English), Alissa Condon (History), and Dr. William Lorber, a psychologist at the Zablocki Center who has worked with veterans suffering with PTSD. The panel will meet on Nov. 18 at 9:30-10:45 in Beaumier A and, once again, members of the University community are invited to attend.

is a long-time member of the History Department, where he teaches courses on the histories of France, crime and punishment, and the First World War. He is the author of Violence in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800 (2001) and Crime, Justice and Public Order in Old Regime France: The Senechaussees of Libourne and Bazas,1696-1789 (1984) and co-author of the textbook Discovering the Western Past: A Look at the Evidence, which has gone through many editions.


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